Nelson Mandela was one of the world’s most monumental figures of the 20th Century.
The first black president in South Africa’s history, his government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid. He did through a dual policy of tackling institutional racism while fostering racial reconciliation.
That double-sided approach to governing provided fodder for critics to Mandela’s left and right, alike — that he was to eager to reconcile with the supporters of apartheid or that he was a communist sympathizer, if not a communist himself.
Unlike other political players whose prospects would be doomed if all sides turned against them, Mandela’s policies were enough to ride a wave of popularity. The “Father of a Nation,” as he is often referred to, created a coalition government, rather than one that understandably would institute policies that would alienate those of the former establishment.
The Government of National Unity, with Mandela as the president with F.W. de Klerk (his predecessor and 1994 general election opponent) and Thabo Mbeki as his deputies, ensured that multiple parties would participate.
Nelson Mandela’s beliefs about apartheid and the regime were well-known. Nonetheless, he tethered himself into a future in which all South Africans could participate in the country’s future. Though the legacy of apartheid remains, this partnership has allowed South Africa to heal some of those wounds and make its mark as a major player in global affairs.
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